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Durham University

Department of Earth Sciences

Research Staff

Dr Katherine Dobson

NERC Independent Research Fellow in the Department of Earth Sciences
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 44603
Room number: rm 321

Contact Dr Katherine Dobson (email at

Research Overview

Lava flows in Hawaii

I apply x-ray tomography (more details here) to investigate the textures within geological samples. The method is non destructive, and can be applied to a wide range of samples and sample sizes, and can be used on samples as they are heated, cooled, deformed, or are innundated by fluids.

My own work focusses on the applications of x-ray tomography in volcanology, and uses the latest state-of-the-art real time and 4D imaging techniques. In each data "movie", each frame is a full 3D image collected in a fraction of a second. This allows me to track the location and interactions between crystals, bubbles, fractures and any other feature of interest inside the sample as I heat and cause the magma to flow and deform. 


I am a NERC Independent Research Fellow in the Department of Earth Sciences at Durham. Before moving to Durham in 2016, I held a research fellowship at LMU, Munich, and postdoctoral positions at the University of Manchester and University of Glasgow. I obtained my PhD from the University of Glasgow in 2006.

2016 – 2021 NERC Independent Research Fellow. Durham University.

2014 – 2016 Post-Doctoral Researcher in X-ray CT for Volcanology Ludwig-Maximilians Universitat, Munich.

2011 – 2014 Post-Doctoral Research Associate in X-ray CT in Geoscience. Manchester X-ray Imaging Facility

Recent Grant Funding


  • Diamond Light Source (i12): Mobilising magma in the largest eruptions: In situ observation of micro-structural controls on multi-phase fluid rheology (PI)
  • Diamond Light Source (i12): Bubble growth and resorption in magma: a quantitative study (CoI).
  • Diamond Light Source (i12):Real Time Ultra-High-Speed Tomography of a Novel Hydrogen Storage Pellet.(CoI).
  • Diamond Manchester Collaboration (i13): How do you make a Meteorite? Part 2 (CoPI)


  • Swiss Light Source TOMCAT Hysteresis processes in large volcanic eruptions: the evolution from pumice to obsidian (CoI)

  • DGF Proposal award: Understanding conduit intrusion processes at Mt Unzen. (PP)

  • Swiss Light Source TOMCAT Longterm Collaborative Proposal: XRheo – in situ observation of 3-phase flow during rheology experiments.(PI)


  • NERC Independent Research Fellowship: Microstructures in magmas: the role of evolvingrheology onmelt extraction anderuption processes (PI)
  • Royal Society University Research Fellowship: Mobilising magmas in the largest eruptions (not taken up) (PI)
  • Diamond Light Source (i12): In situ observation of foaming, coalescence and collapse in magmatic foams using ultrafast x-ray tomography (PI)
  • Diamond Manchester Collaboration (i13): How do you make a Meteorite? (CoPI)
  • Swiss Light Source (TOMCAT):Rheology of two- and three-phase magmas: ultra-fast imaging for near real time quantification (PI)
  • Swiss Light Source(TOMCAT):VolcanicSintering: in situ and real time quantification of aggradation processes (CoPI)


  • NERC Standard Grant: Shedding new light on volcanoes: real time synchrotron x-ray tomography of magmatic phenomena. (RCoI)
  • University of Manchester, Manchester-Diamond Collaboration (i12): In situ investigation of three phase magmas using synchrotron tomography (PI).
  • Diamond Light Source (i12):Sub-second tomography for capturing flow in porous media (PI).
  • Diamond Light Source (i12): Putting magma chambers under the microscope. (PI).


  • Rio Tinto: Understanding leaching efficiency (RCoI)
  • Diamond Light Source (i13): 3D imaging of the oldest animals: tomography of ~635 million year old infaunal cloudinid fossil. (CoI)
  • University of Manchester, Manchester-Diamond Collaboration (i13): The petrophysical structure of deformation bands in high porosity sandstones. (CoI).
  • Diamond Light Source(i12): Time resolved imaging of core formation in the early Earth: tomography at extreme conditions. (CoI)
  • Swiss Light Source (TOMCAT): In-situ rheology of crystal-bearing magmas. (CoPI)
  • Swiss Light Source (TOMCAT): Diving into the magma chamber: understanding melt extraction and magma chamber processes using real time in situ experiments. (PI)


  • PSI SINQ (ICON): In-situ neutron imaging of flow through multi-scale porosity. (PI).

Research Groups

Research Interests

  • Volcanology
  • X-ray Tomography
  • Real time 3D imaging
  • Dynamics of geological processes

Selected Publications

Chapter in book

Journal Article

Show all publications